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Resting Places / Chapter Six: Night of threats foretold 

  • Jeannie Banas of South Hadley, the sister of Sherry Morton, speaks about the tragedy of domestic violence during the public remembrance service at Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence on Friday.<br/><br/> It was held 20 years after Morton and her son Cedric were murdered.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Jeannie Banas of South Hadley, the sister of Sherry Morton, speaks about the tragedy of domestic violence during the public remembrance service at Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence on Friday.

    It was held 20 years after Morton and her son Cedric were murdered.

  • COURTESY OF YOKO KATO<br/>Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in  1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993.

    Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in 1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993.

  • Jeannie Banas of South Hadley, the sister of Sherry Morton, speaks about the tragedy of domestic violence during the public remembrance service at Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence on Friday.<br/><br/> It was held 20 years after Morton and her son Cedric were murdered.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • COURTESY OF YOKO KATO<br/>Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in  1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993.

NORTHAMPTON - Sean Seabrooks began harassing Yoko Kato with phone calls shortly after he started dating her daughter Sherry. Yoko would answer and he’d say nothing. Calls came day and night, to her home and to her dress shop. A Northampton detective traced some of the calls to the shipping department of Merriam-Webster in Springfield, where Sean worked. Others came from his father’s home and still more from his grandmother’s telephone.

Yoko suspected that Sean was jealous of her bond with Sherry and saw her as a threat. Yoko wondered what else he might do. After the murders, she knew. His rage became clear to her in a flood of images.

She took her fears to Cat Chapin, her therapist. In her office, Cat listened as Yoko spoke of wanting to learn the details of the killings, to bear witness for Sherry’s sake. Cat explained that it is acceptable for a survivor to avoid confronting the violence. She warned Yoko that she might not receive any solace from knowing, or be rewarded for the strength it took to be so devoted to her daughter’s memory.

A few months after Cedric was born, while living in Springfield, Sherry and Sean had gone out to a club in Holyoke to drink and dance. Driving away, they got into an argument and Sean hit Sherry, and bit her. With the car slowly moving, he pushed her out onto the ground. She was banged up but not badly injured.

An older couple stopped to help. Sherry called a friend to give her a ride and then told police what happened. Sean was arrested. The following March, with the Holyoke charges still pending, Sean was arrested again for threatening Sherry. This time it happened at her apartment at Meadowbrook. He was living in Springfield and their relationship was faltering.

Mike Quinlan had seen Sean at the Hampshire Regional YMCA, where Mike worked at the front desk. They knew each other through Sherry and made plans to get together that night. As he was leaving, Sean mentioned that he had been on his way to the grocery store when he stopped at the Y, forgetting he’d promised Sherry he would buy diapers and come right back. Instead, he’d played basketball for two hours. Sherry was going to be furious, he told Mike.

Mike got to Sherry’s apartment at around 8 p.m. with two six-packs of Lowenbrau. They planned to drink for a while and go out around 9:30. Sherry didn’t have a TV, so the three of them listened to music on a radio. The apartment was small and warm. Mike and Sean took off their shirts and started dancing. Sherry was sitting at the table in her small dining room in sweats and a T-shirt. She liked to be entertained by her friends and Sean had a goofy, child-like quality that could make her laugh. For a while, Sean watched himself dancing in the reflection in the sliding glass window, laughing with Mike.

Mike could tell something was bothering Sherry. She told Sean that if the two of them were going out, he shouldn’t return. Mike invited Sherry to go with them to a bar called Hot Shots.

They needed somebody to watch Cedric. Sherry didn’t have a phone, so she and Mike drove to a friend’s house. The friend agreed to watch Cedric if they brought him over.

Back at Sherry’s, Sean had changed his mind about partying. He told Sherry that if she was going, he wasn’t. Then take your stuff and go, she said.

Their arguing grew louder. Get out, Sherry told Sean, her voice high. Mike remembers them trading off: Why don’t you just leave? Why don’t you make me? This is my apartment, so why don’t you get out? Well, why don’t you make me get out?

“I’ll leave when the police come here and put me out,” Sean said.

He picked up a crystal lamp from a box by the front door. Sherry had only been in the apartment a week and things weren’t unpacked yet. Sean moved toward her and told her, “I’m going to bust you.” Mike moved between them. Sean put the lamp down and sat down at the table with Sherry.

Cedric, still an infant then, awoke and began crying. Sherry got him from the bedroom, handed him to Mike and said she was going to prepare a bottle. Instead, she tried to go to a neighbor’s apartment to call police. Sean blocked her and she backed away. Minutes later, she rushed for the door, but again he got in her way.

Cedric was crying as he drank from the bottle. Sean asked if he could feed him, and when Sherry agreed, Mike handed him the baby.

Go ahead, Sean told Sherry. She ran out and the men heard her footsteps as she climbed the stairs to the apartment of a neighbor, Kelly Lynde.

Sean told Mike that he’d made a mistake by interfering. He was still holding Cedric when the first police officer, Dave Callahan, came in. A second officer arrived and they took Sean into the hall and asked if he’d attempted to assault Sherry.

What do you mean? Sean asked. With the lamp? The police handcuffed him and took him away.

When Sherry returned, the police asked her and Mike to fill out paperwork. An officer took the lamp as evidence. Sean was arraigned a few days later in Northampton District Court. He pleaded not guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon. Sherry obtained a restraining order against him.

Mike had heard about Sean’s temper but had never witnessed it. Another friend had seen Sean hit Sherry in Springfield when Sean had tried to keep her from going out.

Three months later, Sean admitted to a judge that what he’d done inside Sherry’s apartment was enough to convict him of assault with a dangerous weapon. The case was continued without a finding for a year with probation. The district court’s probation department referred Sean to a psychologist to see whether he should receive counseling as a batterer. After two sessions, the psychologist reported that Sean did not, in fact, need therapy.

About the time of Cedric’s first birthday, Sherry let the restraining order lapse. Sean remained on probation for threatening to attack her with the lamp.

She went to court in Holyoke that fall, just as she was starting her new job at Van Cort Instruments, to testify against Sean for hitting her and pushing her from the car. On the stand, Sherry said that she and Sean had been drinking. She said she had become jealous and had slapped Sean, that she had tried to get into the car and drive away. She said he stopped her because she had been drinking and shouldn’t drive. Her testimony was enough to get the charge dismissed.

Friends didn’t believe the night went quite the way Sherry said it did.


One night, a year after she and Sean got together as a couple, Sherry picked up a pen and paper and drafted a letter to him. A copy of the letter went into the box her sister Jeannie removed from her apartment after the murders.

“I’m laying in bed and I’m trying to remember everything we have been through over this past year!!” Sherry wrote. “It hasn’t been all fun and games and loving times. At times it has gotten really bad, where I just wanted to say f--- it. But something in me keeps trying to make it better. I can’t believe I have put up with all of your bulls---. But I guess that just says how much you mean to me.

“So many people say that I deserve better and could do so much better. But those people don’t know how special we are together. I really feel strongly about us and that we can make it together. All of our dreams will some day come true Sean. You just have to work on it.”

TOMORROW: Yoko uses time with her therapist to sort through her fears and reflects on the violence of her first marriage.


Resting Places / Chapter Five: Bundles of sympathy

Friday, January 11, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Every day the mailman delivered bundles of letters to Yoko’s dressmaking shop, each installment bound in a rubber band. The first week brought hundreds. The owner of a lingerie shop a few blocks away sent a card saying she and her partner were praying Yoko could find strength to live one day at a time, aware of the …

Resting Places / Chapter Four: Lives in a carton

Friday, January 11, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - A week after Sherry and Cedric’s funeral, Yoko Kato drove to Northampton and opened her dressmaking shop. It was Jan. 19, the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Sherry had asked her to watch Cedric, so Yoko had no appointments with customers. She removed the “closed” sign that her lawyer had put up for her …

Resting Places | Chapter Three: Baptism at the vault

Thursday, January 10, 2013

NORTHAMPTON Waiting for the funeral, Jeannie and Yoko slept together on the big velour couches in Yoko’s living room, with the lights on. Jeannie was afraid to go to sleep. She wondered how her mother would get through calling hours at the Pease Funeral Home on Elm Street. Jeannie was at the funeral home when Sherry and Cedric’s bodies arrived, …

Resting Places / Chapter Two: The path of patient No. 40110

Thursday, January 10, 2013

NORTHAMPTON Soon after the killings, Yoko went in search of counseling. She drove to her doctor’s office in Florence and waited for a psychotherapist in a room lit by skylights and floor lamps and decorated with a colorful quilt. Behind a counter, staff clattered away at keyboards. When she was called in, Yoko found herself pouring it all out – …

Resting Places / Chapter One: Dreaming it to be ... one woman's road through loss

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

EDITOR'S NOTE: Twenty years ago this evening, a young woman, Sherry Morton, and her 18-month-old son Cedric were murdered by the boy’s father inside their Northampton apartment. Today, the Gazette presents the first chapter of “Resting Places,” an account of how one relative, Yoko Kato, faced the challenge of living without her daughter and grandson and in time helped bring …

Resting Places / Chapter Seven: One mother's flight to safety  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - “How has the week gone?” It was Cat Chapin’s opening question to Yoko Kato, as the therapist sat in a rocker decorated with a halo of ivy leaves painted gold. They met Tuesdays and Thursdays for weeks, then months, across Northampton’s seasons. The question to Yoko was vague by design. It allowed Yoko to begin with good or …

Resting Places / Chapter Eight: Five days in March

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NORTHAMPTON On March 3, 1993, not two months after the murders, a Northampton court held a 2 p.m. hearing on the terms of Sean Seabrooks’ bail. Jeannie Banas attended and that evening called her mother, Yoko Kato, to tell her that the knife used to kill Sherry and Cedric had been left in her face, near her eye. The next …

Resting Places / Chapter Nine: Weaving her religion

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - A few weeks after the killings, Yoko Kato took up a ritual her family practiced in Japan. She created a shrine to her daughter and grandson in the breakfast room of her home and began to speak to them every morning. She shared the day’s first foods with them in the Shinto Buddhist manner, coffee for Sherry and …

Resting Places / Chapter Ten: Thoughts that need stopping

Friday, January 18, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - During a pretrial hearing in the murder cases against Sean Seabrooks, the prosecutor screened TV news footage outside Meadowbrook Apartments the morning after the killings. Sherry and Cedric’s bodies had just been taken out. Hearing the reporter’s voice again, Yoko Kato broke into a sweat, then ran shaking from the courtroom, sick to her stomach. Out in the …

Resting Places / Chapter Eleven: The gift of making a difference  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - A week after the killings, women dressed in aprons and carrying pots and pans gathered at 7:30 a.m. on the Coolidge Bridge to decry family violence. It was the first demonstration of the Women’s Action Coalition-Western Massachusetts. The second came four days later, when a dozen members gathered downtown, with Yoko Kato present, to hold signs and distribute …

Resting Places / Chapter Twelve: A father’s testimony

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Three weeks after the deaths, Sean Seabrooks had arrived at Hampshire Superior Court in shackles to enter a plea of innocent to two counts of murder. When the prosecutor described the number of wounds Sherry Morton and her son Cedric suffered, he began to cry. A judge ordered an examination into whether he was competent to stand trial. …

Resting Places / Chapter Thirteen: Pieces you can’t put back together

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Yoko Kato could still picture the life her grandson Cedric had lived. In her newest memories he was standing on the couch by the front windows of her dress shop downtown. He would bounce across the cushions like a man on the moon, just tall enough to look over the back of the couch and out onto Main …

Resting Places / Chapter Fourteen: Facing up to forever

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NORTHAMPTON The deer stepped out of the woods and advanced slowly through rows of gravestones. Lights were coming on in the houses that border Spring Grove, but in the deepening dusk, the deer moved almost unseen. On the edge of the cemetery, a woman in a small green house finished her supper of asparagus on toast and looked out the …

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